New Zealand, The Way THEY Deserve It!

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THE NATIONAL PARTY is to be pitied. Those within its ranks whose personal political philosophies match the zeitgeist are inadequate to the task of expressing it. While the handful of genuinely talented National politicians have convinced themselves that power can only be reclaimed by competing fiercely with Labour for the right to implement the same policies. This anything-she-can-do-we-can-do-better strategy is unlikely to succeed. If New Zealanders are happy with a cautious liberal party, committed to incremental reform, then why would they exchange Jacinda Ardern for Judith Collins, or Chris Bishop, for that matter?

If National wishes to remove Labour from office it must be willing to embrace the anger and vengefulness of all those who have not found a physical and/or spiritual place to call ‘home’ in 2020s New Zealand. This will require the party to cease pretending that the policies of the 1980s and 90s can somehow be rehabilitated and set to work with the slightest prospect of success. They can’t. Like the rest of the world, New Zealand is fast becoming ripe for retributive populism. Not so much “New Zealand the way YOU want it” as “New Zealand the way THEY deserve it”.

This is the populism of Victor Orban’s Fidenz Party, Poland’s Law & Justice Party and, less successfully, of Donald Trump’s Republican Party. It is founded on the principle that the past was better than the present: and that unless there is a strong and unapologetic reassertion of the values and policies that dignified the past, then the nation’s steady decline will persist into the future. The truth or otherwise of this core populist assertion is irrelevant since the voters most likely to respond positively to it are aggressively unwilling to entertain anything in the way of counter-arguments. Evidence is for snobs. Real people are guided by their emotions.

All over the Western World there has been an explosion of what the German dissident philosopher, Rudolf Bahro, called “surplus consciousness”. In essence, advanced industrial societies have a tendency to impart more knowledge than they can usefully exploit. Increasingly, those who have passed through all the stages of education: primary, secondary and tertiary; are left knowing much more than they can sell.

In the former socialist states of Eastern Europe, this surplus consciousness manifested itself in movements determined to open up political, social and economic space for the highly educated. In late-capitalist societies, the possessors of surplus consciousness are used to manage and police those poorly educated citizens for whom the globalised economy is, increasingly, reserving only intermittent and poorly-paid employment. According to sociologist Beverly Burris, the role of this new Professional Managerial Class (PMC) is “objectively antagonistic to the working-class”, and that its “most essential and general function is … the reproduction of capitalist culture and capitalist class relations.”

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In the past, political parties dedicated to the smooth functioning of the capitalist system would have looked upon the emerging PMC as an important ally. The unceasing expansion of the PMC in both the public and private sectors of the economy, however, has given right-wing political thinkers cause to question the long-term political trajectory of the PMC. In the process of reproducing capitalist culture and class relations, these highly-educated servants of the system are also radically changing it. Capitalism, itself, is fast developing its own surplus consciousness. Far from integrating workers ever more closely into the capitalist system, the changes demanded by the PMC are alienating them from it.

A globalised capitalist system may derive no benefit from racist, sexist and anti-LGBTQI prejudice: indeed these thought systems constitute a barrier to its smooth functioning. At the level of the nation sate, however, the rational altruism of the PMC runs counter to just about every single one of the social traditions that have shaped its history.

New Zealand, for instance, is a nation state founded upon the deliberate subjugation and dispossession of the indigenous Maori. Racism is in its bones. New Zealand’s emphatically British cultural traditions constitute the bedrock of its Pakeha citizens’ identity. The country’s deeply-ingrained settler consciousness: sternly individualistic; aggressively heterosexual;  proudly egalitarian; is not even remotely sympathetic to the politics of identity out of which a new multicultural “Aotearoa” is being fashioned. Well below the official radar, an ethno-nationalist backlash is, almost certainly, gathering force.

Labour’s current grip on the electoral loyalty of a plurality of the Pakeha working-class, as well as comfortable majorities of the Brown working-class and New Zealand’s own PMC, gives the party a huge advantage over National. Its ideological commitment to feminism, anti-racism and gender equality is perfectly congruent with its broader role as the principal facilitator of globalised capitalism within the New Zealand political system. If National is entertaining hopes of supplanting Labour in that role, then “tell them they’re dreaming!”

The National Party’s only real hope of shattering the fast-setting concrete of Labour’s electoral hegemony is to take to it with the jackhammer of right-wing populism. What Labour and its media allies in the PMC will instantly decry as racism, sexism, homophobia, but which National will characterise as the bedrock values upon which New Zealand was founded, will announce to all those who feel put-upon by the PMC and its “woke” avant-gardethat the National Party has their back.

To make this realignment work, National politicians will have to surrender their disdain for the nation’s underachievers. Like Donald Trump, they are going to have to learn to “love the poorly educated”. They are also going to have to learn how to disengage from rational discussion with “mainstream” journalists. Aggressive repetition of a few key slogans – and a few key falsehoods – is all that’s required of right-wing populist politicians. And if they can master the art of representing leading journalists as purveyors of “fake news” as well as dangerously biased “enemies of the people”, then so much the better.

The other habit National will have to lose is its habit of mouthing neoliberal platitudes. If the workers want their jobs protected by tariffs, then tariffs they must have. If the underclass needs bigger benefits, then implement the WEAG Report in full. If the housing crisis requires an all-out effort by the state to build more homes, then resurrect the Ministry of Works and start building them. If red-blooded Kiwi blokes are worried that climate change will require them to give up their SUVs and utes, then proclaim the whole global warming thing a hoax. Tell conservative Kiwis what Dick Cheney told conservative Americans: that their way of life is “non-negotiable”.

It won’t be pretty: right-wing populism seldom is. It won’t bring New Zealanders together: but that’s not the point. To win back power, National must make itself the champion of every person who feels the old certainties crumbling beneath their feet. Every Baby Boomer who feels too old to change. Every Millennial who despairs of ever owning their own home. Every Maori sick of being looked down on because she can’t speak Te Reo, and who just wants a fair crack at the sort of life the Pakehas live for herself and her kids. Every factory worker resentful of the salaries his union pays middle-class kids fresh out of university to tell him he needs to work on his “white male privilege”.

The zeitgeist of the 2020s is rage: suppressed, inchoate, stomach-churning and tongue-tying rage at the loss of, well, you name it. And that’s the trick, National, to name it. But, before you try, you need to get mad. Really, really mad.

 

35 COMMENTS

  1. God damn it. Conservatives actually showing up to debate in good faith? Do I have that correct?

    No denials, no whataboutisms, no downplaying. Just an admittance that it’s exactly what needs to get done. And “surely leftwingers have this too!”

  2. Chris is most likely right in his political analysis, but the reasons that a good chunk of the population turned against National will apply to this Government also. Many of those who wanted change and a more social approach to solving the current issues are business people. you can’t govern without them. the same applies to all those working in government dept’s. These people want a more inclusive government but they have to live. I haven’t yet spoken of the disenfranchised and unemployed. All need to live with dignity, so although this Government represents the right stuff it still has to do the right stuff in an acceptable timely way or it will loose it’s huge political advantage. For Labour to succeed it has to accomplish something. Anything, but it’s not looking good. Chris may be correct in that National needs to change it’s spots to win the next election and they most likely can’t but they can put makeup on and look better, and they can split the vote along with Act and and the minor parties. Will that be good for the people , I don’t think so personally. I believe even the most loyal left wing voters are loosing patience with the lack of progress in virtually everything this Government has attempted. I also believe the sequins are falling off Jacinder’s ball gown as midnight approaches. Where I believe Chris is on the money, is the vacuum of discontent that will allow the more radical views and ideas have a voice. TheTrump’s of this world. Covid has been the fly in the ointment for this government. On one hand they have done a good enough job to contain it, on the other hand it has been a massive distraction and a huge tax on resources. That is not this Governments fault but in the next election they will not survive on their Covid achievements.

    • “I believe even the most loyal left wing voters are loosing patience with the lack of progress in virtually everything this Government has attempted.”

      In part very true. Though I can’t see “even the most loyal left wing voters” being wooed to the other side. It are the swing voters that make a difference. What do they say about political power (at least in places that hold up democracy as the way to do things): that it is almost always lost, never won. How many times has that happened in AO/NZ? Have we already forgotten what gave Labour a second term? The Covid-vote mostly. An evidence based approach to support an elimination strategy (although to be sure the evidence was contested by some). Keep the team of 5 million safe. The response, headed by Dr Ashley Bloomfield and fronted by our PM Saint Jacinda, was as much a public health move as a political one. It worked. We are safe. And even in traditional red electorates National and swing voters alike used one of their two votes to give Labour the tick of approval. And in some red electorates, they simply took the opportunity to get rid of the dead wood.

      Oh, what comes next? As a good many on TDB have asked, is there really a transformative ideology let alone a plan? Of course not. While granted (no pun intended) some might have noble intentions it all boils down to just a bunch of levers to push and pull in response to unintended consequences (or are those intended consequences).

      Be patient National. Your turn will come. Chances are though they’ll fuck it up even more.

      • Mate. We regulars Schem like chess grandmaster while y’all playing checkers. Read what we say here. It’s a literal crystal ball into the future for those with the kahunas to recognise when headlines validate our theories. Y’all still in the 80’s. Your so far back we lapped Y’all several times. Made National MP’s cry. Look at the state of the National Party!!! You can be sure someone charted that course for National at least 3 months prior. Hell I even wrote down and charted Jacindas course to labour leader, government, and then a majority government 9 months in advance and I got it right bang on like 80% truth telling, just sliding straight facts for 7 years. That’s right I called it. We’re all 3D chess grandmasters.

        Speak softly Bozo. Have some respect for yourself, your family, your community and have some God dam respect for your nation.

  3. Muldoonism: Make NZ great again? It’d clash with a lot of their existing ideas and general inability to work together. One big Weekend at Bernies type campaign would be bizarre to watch. The Labour Party would more likely take that approach successfully. Then as a foil we’d have Greens and Te Pāti Māori in a purposely not very extreme expression of themselves, barely able to keep the oil and water mix of their views stable. The perfect political nightmare.
    Perhaps the next transitional government will be whichever party decides something along the lines that government intervention in the now sacred market is a good thing for overall social and economic balance, and fairness in economic matters have a run on effect to social matters, and not have to find much work to do in pushing identity issues since they’d already be contained in the attempted “fairness” in housing, jobs, welfare, corrections, health etc that overall moves power structures towards equilibrium.

  4. The National Party is increasingly irrelevant, rather like a bunch of dinosaurs living on a planet that has been hit by an asteroid. They felt the Earth shake but haven’t yet experienced the tidal wave, the dust cloud and the volcanism. Those are coming very soon, along with extinction.

    Unfortunately, as a consequence of decades of neoliberalism, NZ now has a large, and increasing, echelon that thinks life is what you organise and do via a digital device, a motor vehicle and a fast-food outlet.

    Many dreams and delusions are about to be shattered

    Everything in the real world -declining oil extraction, increasing planetary meltdown, increasing interest rates, surging food prices etc.- indicates the system is rapidly approaching the collapse point, and the whole neoliberal experiment will demonstrated to be an absolute disaster of unprecedented proportions.

    Undoubtedly, there will be many ‘headless chickens running round the yard’ quite soon.

    But there’s no telling them. They ‘know better than us’, these wizards of global finance, firmly locked into denial of reality and exhibiting delusions of grandeur, these ‘masters of the universe’.

    ‘If Yields Rise 7bps Today, Q1 Will Be The Worst Quarterly Rout For Treasurys In The 21st Century’

    ‘The combined cost of the two parts could reach $4 trillion, and since Magic Money Trees do not actually exist, contrary to what the socialist policymakers would like you to believe, it’s only a matter of time before the move higher in yields breaks all records.’

    https://www.zerohedge.com/markets/if-yields-rise-7bps-today-q1-will-be-worst-quarterly-rout-treasurys-21st-century

  5. NZers have accepted incrementalism for a very long time what makes you think anything has changed.

  6. I disagree that populism is the only path to power for National.

    Remember the Ardern Government has been saved three times from declining polls by the PM’s empathy in crises – the Christchurch mass murder, White island and the biggie Covid.

    Actual delivery (of anything but a welfare of minimum wage increase) has been a long way from any measure of success. Auckland Light Rail, KiwiBuild, etc… People want substantial change, and Labour has not delivered it, yet.

    • I wouldn’t mind Labour going ahead with the planned public private ownership model for light rail or any other major infrastructure project that needs done if Kiwi Superfund Managers are mandated 51% equity stakes in said projects. I’d like to see any future national government try and unwind/privatise that.

    • Correct. New Zealand has its most populist leader (and let’s face it, incompetent) ever right now.

      • Mate. Are you delusional?

        I’ll simplify things one step back.

        Popular and incompetent are like oil and water. It takes a magnificent mental gymnast greater than yourself to be able to a component of popularity together with a compenent of incompetence.

        Words have to have meaning, BG. Those meanings have to be consistent with English literature so that I can assume that the words “incompetent” and “popularity” means the same for me as it does for and the English language and everyone else that uses the English language.

        Go hide now, run. Run away debate dodger. Just concede so I don’t have open your skull up and examine it fir inconsistencies, hypocrisy, retardation and general shit fuckery. Try me son.

        • Can you please tell me her biggest major achievement? Without Covid she would have been a one term prime minister, and even then the Simpson Roche report pointed to luck being the major factor.

          I have friends that absolutely adore her and her popular polling proves that yes, incompetence and popularity can go hand in hand. When asked about why they love her, the themes are ‘she’s so kind’ (obviously not to business owners who have committed suicide, or families trying to see loved ones before they die, or govt employees falsely accused of rape, renters she is screwing up with ill thought through laws, or pike river families used to as a political football, or future tax payers who have been burdened with $100 billion to pay back)

          If hypocrisy wasn’t her major standard, she have no standards at all.

          • Mate. I’m not here to prove your mental gymnastic true or false or woop de fucken do. How about you send me half your annual income before I even entertain the thought of getting my ass out of bed and consult on tour pet theories. Add a link. Post a chart. Find something that is objectively observable to talk about. And get your self some smarter.

              • What bed are you talking about getting out of Sam? The one they have you in at the psych ward?

                • On some real shit. If you want to support a guy who comes up with retarded arguments then talk to the guy and console the guy. Look at his comments. Fucking loser.

                  • I do read your comments, that’s why I was genuinely concerned for you.

                    I think you are being a bit hard on yourself – you are not a fucking loser.

                    Or were you asking for support and consolation, then insulted the person you were asking for support?

                    • How can you value yourself while you manoeuvre your conclusions 100% away from your support pecocks arguments. Its weird and an admission that your premisses suck, I will slap you and your friends on any topic dork.

          • I think the tarnish is starting to wear off but the voting public cannot see any real alternative .If you are voting on policy this Labour government is pretty close to running a National like policy. If you are voting on charisma for many Jacinda and Grant comes out in front . Judith and Dr Reti do not seem to be on the same page as each other or the rest of caucus and while I like Seymore he is a bit radical for most and his team is unproven.
            I think we are doomed to be lead by a do nothing government for the next few years.

  7. The populist votes are definitely there for National and Act and it is very easy to manipulate working class resentment in favor of right wing policies – as long as the framing is on cultural issues and avoid any direct discussions of systemic economic problems.
    But this is not something new or unique in NZ’s political history – Don Brash, Winston Peter’s and the litany of anti PC and nanny state critiques have been around since the 90’s.
    The only thing that I’d disagree with in the article is the idea that right wing populists ever implement socialist economic policies like a house building program. The key is to win over the disenfranchised using cultural issues to mask the furtherance of right wing economic policies – this can be done with framing – such as “liberating workers” from unnecessary health and safety regulation or “freeing the market” to build more houses by lowering building standards etc.
    Trump – despite his appeal to the white working class – did not implement a single policy to improve their economic position. Boris Johnsons answer to “levelling up” in the UK is to implement “Free Ports” – de-regulated zones that will foster tax evasion and worker exploitation. His solution to an underfunded public health system is to sell off it’s operations to private US health corporations etc. etc.

    • In other words the same kind of lies that we were subjected to in the 1990s, with a slight upgrade.

      It’s fascinating that, even as global ‘free trade’ is generating a plethora of unsolvable problems and the enviromental predicament is made worse, the neo-fascists -opps, neo-liberals- still promote additional free trade as being beneficial.

    • “Boris Johnsons … solution to an underfunded public health system is to sell off it’s operations to private US health corporations etc. etc.”

      Not sure where you got that idea from You couldn’t be more wrong: https://www.politico.eu/article/nhs-reform-boris-johnson-ditch-ideology/

      The less said about Johnson’s personal character the better, and he bungled the handling of covid-19. But he has mostly pursed very positive policies, such as nationalizing northern rail, strengthening the NHS, and moving to protect free speech on British campuses.

    • “”or “freeing the market” to build more houses by lowering building standards etc.”” Yeah, look what happened last time the Natz did this – our very own Leaky Homes crisis projected to cost $40 Billion to fix and wrecking a great many lives in the process. Another neo-lib train wreck.

  8. National’s days seem numbered as a major force. human mortality is doing them in, funeral by funeral their dedicated supporters diminish. That does not mean the proportion of reactionaries and conservatives and neo authoritarians is necessarily changing though. Some right wing propensities seems to be hard wired, transferable across generations.

    The Nats can try a Trump wannabe route, but ACT is more likely to get such people. Given Labour ‘is not for turning’ on neoliberalism and house prices, 2020 switch voters might just stay with Labour.

    As Peter Bradley above refers to, the populists are skilled at professing to “feel your pain”–but they never do anything serious about alleviating the related material conditions.

  9. Hahaha good April 1 post Chris. Advising National to “smash the system” when they are the primary beneficiaries of it. National are the shills of the PRC, Property investors, and multinationals seeking to pillage NZ. They care about money and perpetuating the system & they view the working class with contempt.

  10. Another mixed bag from Trotter.

    ” … the voters most likely to respond positively to it are aggressively unwilling to entertain anything in the way of counter-arguments. ”

    Whereas progressive neoliberals and wokesters are really open to considering counter-arguments?

    “Evidence is for snobs. Real people are guided by their emotions.”

    Whereas radical feminists, Maori nationalists and the Green Party are all about evidence and reason, right? “The Citizens Handbook” is all about evidence and reason?

    “Every Baby Boomer who feels too old to change.”

    Again this is lazy and cheap. A boomer in the twilight of their career has much less need to go woke than (say) an ambitious millennial – if the latter wants to get ahead at work, s/he had better make the right sort of progressive neoliberal noises. Questioning the value of unconscious bias training, or challenging feminist interpretations of the so-called “gender pay gap” would not be good for career advancement. So it’s left largely to boomers to present those critiques, as we have less to fear and less to lose.

    You seem to paint “right-wing populism” as the only alternative to progressive neoliberalism. Yet consider the policies of Boris Johnson’s government – putting aside for the moment his unfortunate character defects. Nationalising railways, strengthening the NHS, moving to protect freedom of speech on campuses, extracting Britain from the EU’s tentacles – is this really right-wing populism, or just sound evidence-based policy?

    • Pope Punctilious II: I agree with all of your comment here.

      In my view, Trotter’s post falls into the trap which ensnares so many lefties. They fling epithets at, and insult, people with dissenting opinions, rather than presenting countervailing arguments. It does their credibility no good at all.

      I do not know whether he’s done this intentionally, so as to provoke debate, or if it hasn’t occurred to him how it will be read. I have come to expect better of him.

  11. I think the tarnish is starting to wear off but the voting public cannot see any real alternative .If you are voting on policy this Labour government is pretty close to running a National like policy. If you are voting on charisma for many Jacinda and Grant comes out in front . Judith and Dr Reti do not seem to be on the same page as each other or the rest of caucus and while I like Seymore he is a bit radical for most and his team is unproven.
    I think we are doomed to be lead by a do nothing government for the next few years.

  12. Understandably the left is disappointed that Jacinda has not moved the policy settings significantly away from the neoliberal settlement. I don’t remember seeing anywhere that she ever said she was going to. She dis say there would be more houses and that hasn’t happened, but there is no political opposition out there to attract voter support that is offering any less continuity with the settlement. So any and all aspiring political options are further to the right. She has no serious contestant on the left with any financial creds now that Russell Norman has left the party. They have only wokeist policies.
    So if you accept that Jacinda is as Kaynsian a leader as is on offer in the foreseeable , in all other respects of presenting as an attractive, genuine, approachable believable leader , there’s no one out there that has half the appeal.
    The changes that need to be made are fundamental, and are constrained by a miriad of international agreements that lock us into a system that has removed the power of national governments to take the steps needed to properly look after their country in the present world economic climate . It is all heading for a re organisation brought about by the failure of neoliberalism to serve the requirements of most of the world’ people. But that day of reckoning is being postponed with all the energy , resource and sagasity the gnomes can deploy. So until the illusion of normality evaporates entirely and the system becomes unworkable there is unlikely to be a concensus that will make it possible for a truly independent national ( as in of a nation) government to undertake those reforms without incurring the wroth and excommunication and hence loss of the ability to trade with the rest of the world. The world that we view as our partners anyway.
    I think Jacinda is pretty bright. I doubt that she is an irrevocable ideologue . And I think she is as likely to act appropriately when the moment arrives as anyone in parliament or out of it.
    Electorally speaking for the foreseeable future “There Is No Alternative”.
    D J S

    • David Stone: “….Jacinda has not moved the policy settings significantly away from the neoliberal settlement. I don’t remember seeing anywhere that she ever said she was going to.”

      Well of course not: she’s a Blairite. It’s been obvious from the outset what she is.

      “She dis say there would be more houses and that hasn’t happened…”

      Again: we should have seen that coming, I guess. The neoliberal project sees housing as being a private good: she wasn’t about to change that.

      Successive governments have abrogated their responsibilities in respect of state housing, and de facto delegated that task to the private sector. And NOW she declares war on investors for behaving like investors? The barefaced bloody cheek of it is surpassed only by the willingness of a biggish chunk of the electorate to go along with that. Kindness my foot! She should take her own advice.

      “The changes that need to be made are fundamental, and are constrained by a miriad of international agreements that lock us into a system that has removed the power of national governments to take the steps needed to properly look after their country in the present world economic climate.”

      Exactly. It would require a leader with courage, and willingness to stand against the 5 Eyes in particular. Gough Whitlam, Norman Kirk, Keith Holyoake, perhaps, might be those leaders. Ardern isn’t, and never will be. She’s a show pony.

      Regrettably, because I see nobody in Labour at present with that sort of character, who could take the reins and steer NZ in the direction in which it needs to go. Yet this is what some of us lefties expected of a left-wing government. If we’d actually got one, of course.

      in my view, NZ needs to follow the path of independence and non-alignment. And the only person in opposition who might just possibly be persuaded to follow that sort of path is David Seymour. No guarantees there, either.

      “I think Jacinda is pretty bright. I doubt that she is an irrevocable ideologue.”

      I don’t share that view of her intelligence. However: my impression is that she has (as the saying goes) come to believe her own publicity. The same thing happened to Key, and for the same reason: they both have/had charisma, and the adoring public would find no fault with either of them. Thus she acts in ways that don’t damage her political capital. Key was the same.

      This is why I am deeply suspicious of charisma in pollies. I greatly prefer plain men, so to speak.

      The thought of having this lot – and Ardern – in power for the foreseeable, fills me with despair. And the desire to emigrate, even though I was born here. A neighbour remarked that he walks out of the room when she comes on TV; I feel much the same.

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